The Generational Impact on Customer Experience

customer experience podcast series

We are in the midst of a Customer Experience (CX) revolution and customers are demanding an enhanced experience.  In this episode of The CX Angle, we talk with Jimmy Dickinson, Vice President at itelligence, about how younger generations are impacting CX and user experience.

Read the transcript below or listen to the podcast.

(Jeremy Cross)  Thanks again for listening to another episode of the CX Angle podcast. My name is Jeremy Cross and, as always, I’m joined by my colleague Ryan Kubek. Ryan, how are you doing today?

(Ryan Kubec) I’m doing all right, Jeremy. How are you?

(Jeremy Cross) I’m fine. It’s been quite a while since we got a chance to record. I’m excited for today’s episode because, along with you, we also have Jimmy Dickinson, a vice president and one of our colleagues at itelligence. Jimmy, how are you doing?

(Jimmy Dickinson) I’m doing great, Jeremy. Thanks for asking.

(Jeremy Cross) I’m glad that we were finally able to get on your calendar. You were quite a busy individual for us to try to book on the show. So thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with us today.

We’re going to be diving into a conversation today, really looking at this lens of the impact of — let’s say I’m going to throw out the word Millennial as just a blanket — but I’m going to say more so looking at, I guess, the impact of different generations upon technology and industry, and what changes have taken place. We’re going to be talking to Jimmy about that.

And so to get us started, Ryan, I’m going to kick it over to you. What do you want to ask Jimmy? Like I said, we’ve been trying to get Jimmy on the show for a while. I’m going to hand it over to you. What should we dive into first?

(Ryan Kubec) Yes. Jimmy, I think when Jeremy and I were sitting down and planning out what we wanted this podcast to be, you were one of the first people that came to mind. Because we want to talk about — obviously the focus of our podcast is customer experience and how businesses are trying to improve and compete on that level and what solutions and technology do they pull in and what processes. By that I mean CX is kind of blended with user experience, at least in my opinion, that they’re almost indistinguishable now between internal users and external customers. And my guess was that some of that has been driven by the younger generation not accepting what was traditional B2B type of software or programs that they would use.

You’ve been in this space a little bit longer. What have you seen? How has it changed in just the time that you’ve been in the industry? And where do you see it going? What do you see as the drivers? Just pontificate for us on the influence of a younger generation on CX and UX, if you will.

(Jimmy Dickinson) Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Ryan, and glad to talk about it. You know, it’s actually kind of revolutionary in many ways. You know, when I started in this business or got involved in B2B technologies and ERP technologies — and CX, before it was called CX, about 17 years ago — the way that people interacted with systems was really different. You know, the goal was pretty simple. Go to a screen and put some information in. Where it goes, what becomes of it, how you do it really didn’t matter. The goal was to kind of just get the data in there. So it really wasn’t about the experience; it was about the transaction.

Now, in the world of dynamic integration back and forth and machine learning and deep enriching analytics and responsive design, it’s not just about getting data into a system. It’s about interacting and learning from it. It’s about simplifying things. It’s about automating things. And, not to become too professorial in this scenario, but I think the younger generation demands more and they want to see value in what they’re doing. If I go back, there would be a lot of times when you had a problem in a business, your first answer was to put a person or persons on it. So whether you’re entering orders into a system or analyzing which customers we should focus on, let’s just have John or Susie or somebody take the information out of the system and dump it into a big Excel spreadsheet, have them sit there for three months, play around with it and give us a result that maybe is right.

But now, from a user experience perspective, if I’m a customer/consumer or I’m an analyst, that’s part of the organization, as I’m going through an order entry on behalf of a customer or I’m a customer entering an order in a Webshop, I want it to be simple that recognizes my voice, that gives me relevant information about what I am interested in and what my peer group is interested in. I want to know when can I get it? When can I get it and why is it valuable for me today? And what’s the incentive for me to do it now? That is so much more enriching and fulfilling and engaging than the transactional systems.

And I’ve got to give kudos to not only the thought leaders of yesteryear, but the thought leaders of today, the Millennials, the younger folks, for really demanding more and making all of us technologists and business users and optimizers rethink how the experience of working with systems and working with commerce portals and marketing segmentation analysis and service tickets should be done better.

And I think that’s really driven in two ways. People have always valued their time, but people value their time even more. Two, they demand more. They absolutely demand more. And that people want to see things. They want to see predictive analytics and suggestive selling and real-time visualizations to accompany their experience because they want to have a more enriching and more actual experience. Because the era, like I said before, of, if you got a problem, throw another person on it, that just doesn’t work anymore. Now, it’s about how a person powered by systems, powered by machines, powered by data and intelligence can be done and create things successfully and better and at scale. And we’ll talk a little bit more later, but scalability has driven so much of how we’ve demanded systems to be more optimized and improved. So, yeah, I guess that’s kind of what I’m thinking at a strategic level.

(Ryan Kubec) There’s a lot of thoughts going through my head as you were talking. But the main one is, as you talked about, the old way was just these B2B systems that were just these transaction juggernaut battle tanks that weren’t user friendly. They just served one purpose, and that was to get transactions into the system to allow other people to keep doing their jobs.

And I think it probably was driven by this younger generation. Where I had kids that I went to middle school with, by the time we were in college they were building their own apps that you could go download on the Apple Store. And so seeing that this technology was available to people that were doing it in their free time with no budget, and then going from that world to corporate America and seeing these big, large entities with big budgets and obviously big expenditures as well. But seeing some of the technology that they were using, I think was probably initially disheartening to some of the folks they were trying to recruit to say, these are really the tools that you have to offer when we know what’s out there? And even just in our personal consumer lives, things are so much easier. So I think that’s where you see companies are starting to compete on the types of tools that they offer their employees rather than just the standard salary and benefits packages.

(Jimmy Dickinson) Yeah. You know, Ryan, you bring up a really great point. It’s like people sort of help to arc the direction of where technology is going. But frankly, technology helped to arc the ideas and things that people use with technology. So it’s kind of this like back-and-forth perspective. You know, when I see young people, when we go through hiring exercises, they do demand more. Back in the day, you were responsible for knowing Microsoft Windows 3.1 Excel or Visual Basic coding to solve your business problems. But now, if I look at some of the customers that I’m working with on the East Coast and the West Coast, I mean, everybody’s in Google Sheets. They’re doing low-code application development where it’s like a drag-and-drop screen to make an app. They’re doing these data intelligence tools that are just profoundly different and way more agile. I think one of the biggest things that Millennials and young folks bring to our market, and this isn’t exclusive to them, but I think a unique perspective is velocity and speed.

People are used to having things right now and doing things right now as quickly as possible. So how can they use technologies to solve their problems quicker, you know, and nobody wants to wait nine months to solve an issue anymore. They want to flip a switch, test it out, do a sprint cycle to work through the scenarios, and launch it and solve the problem and move on. So I really feel like that need to change and the velocity of change is being driven by this new youth.

And as I encourage customers, as they figure out their technology journey and figure out their problems, I think with philosophy in mind as we’ve either transformed inside of itelligence or, frankly, helped our customers transform, we’re always looking for those little nuggets that can be done fast. What can we do now? What can we do quickly? What drives value right away?

The other interesting thing that I want to talk about with young people, as you know, as you embark on these technology journeys, I still remember all the times that as someone adopts — whether you’re deploying a new commerce program or you’re rethinking a mobile field service solution — or as people are trying to figure out, hey, how do I want to segment my customers not just by the classic customer attributes, but how they interact with our website and how we understand their interaction with social media to give segmentation and market analysis of them.

Having those young people think with these fresh new ideas and fresh approaches really can kind of make the project even better to give that approach and methodology and also gives them an opportunity to learn and lead. I mean, to jump on and work with a new piece of technology, figure it out, help lead the company through the transformation. You’re building your next set of directors and vice presidents, because those are the systems that run your business and they give a fresh set of eyes on how it works.

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah, yeah, for sure. So we’ve talked about this in previous episodes, about our opinions on what’s driving a lot of this big CX push, specifically in the B2B space, where it’s kind of followed the B2C world, where obviously if you’re marketing to individuals, that individual experience really matters when you’ve got a lifelong customer, that you’ve got MSAs in place and legal agreements and contracts, maybe sometimes the customer experience falls by the wayside because you’ve got that. You’re part of that B2B transactional engine.

But as buyers are becoming younger and younger, kind of coming to our generational discussion, and this is what I’ve talked with businesses about before and trying to improve their customer experience is saying, look, as these new buyers are coming in, they have a different set of expectations. They’re used to the Amazon experience. They’re used to downloading things from the Apple Store very easily or having subscription services in their home. I think that’s driving some of the need, like you said, this younger generation or this new buyer/consumer, however we want to put it, is demanding better technology.

Jimmy, you’ve worked in a ton of different industries. So one, do you also see that same thing happening where this new generation, or new buyer or consumer behavior is driving that? And then, part two of that is, do you see that problem more prevalent or less prevalent in any specific industries?

(Jimmy Dickinson) Yeah, let’s take those in question one and question two. So with the buyer persona, absolutely, 100%. If I look at a buyer, a buyer is a person, a buyer is a consumer. A buyer has the corporate responsibility, the professional responsibility, to make accurate and relevant procurement decisions that reduce cost and provide the right materials and increase value for their business.

But they’re also a person with an Amazon app on their phone and a Google Sheet app on their phone and are searching through the Web with robust, rich product catalogs. So they’re absolutely expecting a B2C level of experience in their B2B platform. And honestly, I think it’s not just an expectation, it’s now a differentiator.

As I look at some of my customers that are leading in their industry sub-segments, so, for example, in wholesale you can be a distributor of aerospace goods, you could be a food distributor, you can be someone who does industrial goods, building products, etc. The ones that are leading are no longer the organizations that are powered by sales reps who talk to customers. The ones that are leading are no longer the people that just have a great customer service team, even though — let’s be very real — customer service is still everything. But customer service isn’t just a phone number. Customer service is about giving those buyers and giving those people information at their fingertips. So it’s like the Amazon world that they can go on and shop easily on a mobile device, look across product catalogs, search across the entire experience.

And most importantly, these buyers, if you look at their goals and the things that they’re being judged on, is how well the relationships their vendors are performing. So how much stuff comes on time? Is it the right quality? Is that the right metric? Are we cutting the right POs? Providing all that data to them so they can do their jobs better is no longer just a nice-to-have; it’s a requirement and to differentiate.

One thing that’s really cool is that with different technologies, you can make that happen. It’s very much plausible and you can lead inside of your sub-segment through that scenario with across different commerce applications. And I just see the opportunity to really drive and say, hey, I can provide a responsive design buyer portal where a buyer can log in, see all of his orders, status information, all of his order history, make complex procurement decisions which follow the complex procurement rules on any device, anywhere.

And it really is a differentiator that, if you think about it as a wholesale distributor or a person that’s working with any type of key accounts and the buyers behind there, who do they want to work with? Somebody that has the product and is really nice to them or somebody who has the product, is really nice to them and gives them information at their fingertips at any time. It helps you lead in your sub-segment.

So that kind of answers the first question, do I see industry focus in this area? Yeah, absolutely. No doubt about it. I mean, distributors are focused in this area because wholesale distribution is no longer just about providing a right product for a certain segment. It is that value-added service and that digital experience that’s making them stand out, that sort of thing. You’ll see in the consumer world as you make key relationship with retailers, if you look at the key buyers at the big retail brands like Costco, Walmart, Kroger, etc., the younger generation of buyers that are saying, hey, where do I want to source the product to put on my shelves? And I’ll tell you right now, they’re being judged not by the quality of product, but the quality of product plus the data that they’re receiving and the experience they get. So it’s just huge. And I think the next leaders in these industry segments will be taking advantage of these new commerce technologies.

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah, that actually leads me into my next thought. You talked about buyers being able to execute those transactions basically anywhere, any time, on any device. And given the fact that I think the whole world is really going through a workplace transformation with everyone being remote, how do you see that impacting the need or the importance of companies starting to invest in some of these customer experience technologies and platforms and really taking a look at how that is, knowing that their buyers and the people interacting with them on a B2B scale are now working from their home or on the road, or outside of sitting in an office in a cubicle.

(Jimmy Dickinson) Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I remember talking with one of my customers and they’re saying, hey, Jimmy, I want to reduce my supplier list. I go, huh? Oh, yeah, like, I want less suppliers who can provide me more products. I’m not single sourcing. I mean, no one single sources, because there’s inherent risk behind that. But no one mega multi-sources anymore. There’s not 5-10 suppliers that you’re going to be working with to provide a product, or multiple products, or a SKU or multiple SKUs. So if you look at that list, that source list, that collection of vendors that they’re going to be buying from, you don’t want to be on the second or third spot anymore. You don’t just want to be on the list. You want to be on the top of the list.

And in the world of COVID-19, it’s all about prioritization. It’s everything. When I talk to all my customers, they’re doing two things. First, they’re figuring out how to keep their employees safe. So how can I keep a workplace – well, three things — how can I keep my employees safe? Two, how can I keep my customers safe? So in other words, as I sell product and work with products, how can I keep them safe? And those in many ways are the absolute parallel in prioritization.

And then number three is, how can I stretch a dollar? You know, I have X amount of operating income, X amount of margin that I made through certain scenarios, and how can I do this more successfully? How can I get one supplier to work with me on a tighter sort of dynamic relationship back and forth? And for them, it’s about looking at their supply base and going all-in more on key strategic suppliers, increasing their market share, increasing how they supply and trust and go back and forth.

And as a B2B business, you want to be on the top of that list. And how do you do that? Net-net, only a few couple of things. One, you provide a great product or service. Two, you provide kind of a great in-person experience; i.e., they give the concept of being easy to do business with. Three, you differentiate. And four, you create an amazing digital experience for them. And honestly, that digital experience can be a having a massive set of collection of points on how you can differentiate. And COVID-19 is really pushing customers to do more with less, and you really want to do more with the technology that’s available to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

(Ryan Kubec) Very well, said, Jimmy, I wish I could bring you into just repeat that verbatim to almost all of the customers I’m working with on the CX side.

(Jeremy Cross) Don’t worry, Ryan, we have that recorded. We can just use that for you.

(Ryan Kubec) Yeah, we’ll do a little cartoon of you talking there. So, Jimmy, thank you for giving your insights on the CX side.

I want to ask you another unrelated technology question. So, Jimmy, you are my go-to technologist. Whenever I’m looking at buying a new product. I usually take a look at what you use or things that I’ve heard you talk about. I’d never even heard of a Raspberry PI computer until you told me about it one day. Jimmy, I’m putting you on the spot here. What what’s your newest, coolest piece of technology that you’ve interacted with and in the last three months that you want to enlighten me on?

(Jimmy Dickinson) You know, Ryan, I want to thank you first off for saying I’m your favorite nerd. So I just want to appreciate that.

Can I tell a really fun story? So it’s 4:30 p.m. yesterday and I’m sitting there and I watch one of my coworkers basically whiteboard live on Microsoft Teams, and I thought it was so cool. I was like, look at that, rather than opening up a PowerPoint and sharing your screen where I can’t share stuff back and forth, he opens up a whiteboard and starts drafting something up and says, what do you think about this? How do you want to change it? And I thought to myself, in this COVID-19 world, we have to dynamically interact. We have to interact quickly and easily and make it as real as if we were face to face. I mean, I thought this whiteboard technology was awesome.

So I’ll give you two things. I’ll give you the more robust one, which I haven’t played with, and then will work from me. There’s new solutions like Miro.co and different whiteboard applications that you can share information back and forth, have multiple people whiteboard at the same time. So rather than working in a linear surface like a Microsoft Word document or a classic PowerPoint, you can whiteboard together at once.

Two, the whiteboard app, which I sort of like inside of Microsoft Teams, it’s pretty sweet, guys. I log into Teams, I pull up my iPhone, I don’t even need a different piece of technology. I pull up my iPhone and a pen and then I can start drawing on the iPhone and literally they see it right on their Screen Time sort of thing and they can respond back and forth. I think it’s simple things like that that make a difference. And I don’t think complex technology necessarily needs to drive value. It’s simple technology done well that can make a huge impact. So check out whiteboards folks. It’s going to be part of our lives for many years to come. Digital whiteboards.

(Ryan Kubec) Awesome. Thanks, Jimmy. Jeremy, do you have anything that you want to ask Jimmy while we still have him on the line?

(Jeremy Cross)  No, I think you’ve covered everything. I’ve just sort of been sitting in the background enjoying the conversation. So thanks to both of you for today’s conversation. And Jimmy, again, thanks for taking the time to be on the podcast.

Again, you’ve been listening to the CX Angle podcast. We appreciate your support. And we look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks.

 

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